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Army Drops UGS and Flying Keg

The final decision on the future of what we call Son of FCS is in and the Army has decided to scrap Unattended Ground Sensors and the Class 1 UAS, fondly known as the flying beer keg.

Ash Carter, undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics signed a Feb. 3 acquisition decision memorandum making this official. An Army source says the decision does not mark abandonment of the pursuit of the concept behind the Early-Infantry Brigade Combat Team (E-IBCT) program. "This program did what we asked it do," the Army source said. Basically, the ADM means the service found the Network Integration Kits, the operating system and the wave forms that allow creation of the network useful. It does push the the first fully integrated and tested set of capabilities out to 2015-16 from 2013. The first capability set -- not fully tested and integrated into a brigade -- should be available in 2013-14.

Here's the official statement put out by OSD: "The decision to conclude the E-IBCT program and shift the remaining elements to other program offices carefully balances military utility, system performance, and affordability with the immediate needs of our warfighters."

Boeing, the Brigade Combat Team Modernization prime contractor, said it understood "the Army is having to make extremely difficult decisions based on significant budget pressures." But Paul Geery, Boeing vice president, said Carter's memo "continues to demonstrate the importance that the Army is placing on delivering integrated tactical network capabilities that soldiers need today in the conflicts that they are facing in places such as Afghanistan."

The Army does plan to two more brigade set of the SUGV (Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle), the cute robot with the cameras and tracks, the Army source said.

The Army plans to issue requests for new systems and concepts for the brigade of the future pretty soon, though no firm date is available yet.

Testing of all the remaining elements of I-ECBT (and whatever new ones are found useful), development of CONOPS and such will conducted by the Army Evaluation Task Force's 4,000-man brigade, comprised of infantry, Strykers and heavy elements.

The official statement from OSD had this line in it, which makes pretty clear just why these latest decisions were taken. Deciding what to buy and maintaining high standards for the Army "require diligent and informed choices as systems are evaluated, tested and fielded in support of this goal." And the unspoken comment might well have been: the Army did not make diligent and informed choices when it first decided to develop these systems.

As someone who has seen three of the Army's tests of these systems I am somewhat surprised they killed the Class 1 UAS. Although its range was limited, soldiers during the test I saw identified it as one of the winners of the test because it was good at disrupting the enemy's ability to deploy unseen. Of course, there was also the clever move by the leader of the Taliban main force (the OpFor) flew kites to discombobulate the beer keg. Capt. Andrew Hitchings said the kites tangled the UAV up and rendered it temporarily useless. But he also said the UAS complicated his life as an insurgent. Was that the death knell for the beer keg? Or did data and test results doom it? I hope it was the kites.

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